“Fit for the Fight?” – New Year 2018

“Fit for the Fight?” – preparing for the publication of “The Perpetual Battle”, March 2018

Whenever I go home to the lovely island of Jersey, I see evidence of that painful period of German Occupation during World War Two. It was Hitler’s big prize: German soldiers on British soil! For five long years, the Channel Islands were taken over by the enemy. German soldiers and conscripts built bunkers, and huge concrete sea defences, to protect themselves from invasion, and in the hope that these small islands might be their stepping-stone to invade England.

It was tough for the locals. My parents are just old enough to remember some of it. German soldiers on the streets, rationing and hardships, uncertainty and fear. Although, for a young boy, there was a bit of intrigue as well, nurtured by a love of guns and soldiers.

To overcome any sense of bravado or complacency, parents regularly reminded their children, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

Christians in this world are, in a sense, living in enemy occupied territory, and also need to hear the refrain: “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

If you were baptised in the Church of England you (or your parents and godparents on your behalf) will have pledged to “renounce the world, the flesh and the Devil”. Such a promise, for many, seems rather out of touch with the challenges of contemporary life.

The Devil? For some, such a creature (with curly tail and pitchfork) is nothing more than a comical figure. For others, rather more seriously, the realm of the dead is sought through séances, or interest in things of the occult.

The Flesh? Those familiar with the language of the King James Version of the Bible will know that “indulging in the works flesh” features as something we are supposed to be against. However, for many, the whole idea of “purity” of conduct is wrapped up in a perception of a Victorian taboo of anything to do with the body or matters of sex. What, after all, is wrong with our bodies?

The World? And, we ask, what is the matter with this great world around us? The beautiful sunsets, the rolling hills, the crashing waves. What of the world is that we are supposed to be renouncing?

Maybe this all seems a little remote. However, I suggest that the call to discipline, and even, the spiritual call to arms, is very relevant for the Church today.

The Baptism promises remind each one of us, that Christians are enlisted into an army. No, not to go off and fight a Crusade. Rather, to recognise that there, alongside the goodness of this word, and the goodness we often see emanating from humanity, there is real evil and horrible wickedness. Moreover, it is not just “out there” in the world around us, nor even just in the devilish influence of an evil one. No, it is here, within me. Maybe you too recognise what the Apostle Paul wrote:

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work, waging war against (me)… What a wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:22-25).

During the 40 days of preparation leading up to Easter, known as Lent, we are encouraged to think more seriously about the reality of doing battle with the triad “the world, the flesh, and the Devil”.

My own thinking and writing on this matter has been shaped by some key books, and they will help focus our Lent course.

C.S. Lewis wrote a well-known fictional account of instructions from a Senior Devil to Junior Devil called The Screwtape Letters. Using his great literary skills, Lewis imagined the kind of training and worldview that needed to be inculcated in a demonic protégé, if he was to have his way in this world.

One time Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, the Puritan Pastor, John Owen, wrote about another battle, this time around “the flesh”. Whilst far from an easy read, his talk of “mortification” refers, not of humiliation, but of putting to death habits and patterns, of thinking and living, which are contrary to human nature as God intends it.

A third little book, by a Christian Psychiatrist, John White, is called, The Fight. It shows that the stresses and strains of this life are best solved – not necessarily by therapy – but by addressing our relationship with the God who has made us.

So, why not join us this Lent, for a kind-of spiritual health check? This is a chance to consider how we can get body, mind, and soul, into shape, by considering the timeless words of the Bible, with help from some of these great Christian writers. Yes, it sounds a bit painful, but it is the pain of that first session at the gym after the Christmas indulgences. Lent is the chance to get back in shape on the spiritual level. Lent also gives us the opportunity to view the Church, and our culture, through the lens of the Bible.

You can be “fit for the fight”.

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Excellence in Preaching

 

My book “Excellence in Preaching.  Learning from the Best” has now been published.  IVP have done a great job and I am most grateful that the 12 preachers I examine have been gracious and cooperative in allowing me to write about them.

What have I learnt as a result?  What produces excellenet preaching? In an attempt to distill my thoughts it includes the following:-

1) A deep love for the Lord, dependence on the Holy Spirit and sustained immersion in Scripture.  Preaching is a deeply spiritual task and the godliness of the preacher shines through whether they intend it or not!

2) A certain grasp of what makes for good communication.  Sermons need a “Big Idea” (or “Homiletical theme”) and preachers need to practice clear, concise, relevant and engaging communication.

3) The third thing preachers need to learn is what motivated the writing of “Excellence in Preaching”, namely that we learn much from preaching by listening to good preachers.  Apart from the obvious fact that preachers need to hear God’s word explained and applied for their own spiritual health, the language of mentoring and modelling is important here.  My prayer and hope is that good preachers will notice and appreciate the things good preachers do: not to mimic but rather to observe and learn.

I have learnt so much from Dick Lucas’ preaching: not from his teaching about preaching but from him doing it!  His style is quite unique, with a delightful self-deprecating and dry sense of humour.  But mainly – and this surely is the best test of preaching – there are so many passages (mainly from Mark’s Gospel) where I cannot read them without hearing Dick’s voice in my head.  He regularly taught me things which I had not known before, and once I had learnt them I could never forgot the lessons.

“Excellence in Preaching” will be launched at Wycliffe Hall Oxford at 5pm on Thursday 17th November, but if you can’t wait it is available online in England now! (see http://www.ivpbooks.com/9781844745197 the book will be published in the USA at the end of the yearhttp://www.amazon.com/Excellence-Preaching-Studying-Leading-Preachers/dp/0830838155)

Rob Bell and Love Wins, Article by Simon Vibert

Rob Bell’s Love Wins – taking its toll among evangelicals?

 Rob Bell could be characterised as a young, hip and trendy preacher, media savvy and culturally alert.  He is the founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids Michigan which since its beginning’s in 1999 now has a Sunday congregation of over 10,000.   

He is best known for high quality DVD’s entitled Nooma (a phonetic transliteration of the Greek word for “spirit”).  These are 12-14 minute teaching resources.  They are intended to be “visually stunning and emotionally compelling”. 

Much ink has already been spilt over Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins.  The advanced publicity caused quite a stir, but I think that was the point.  I have refrained from making comment on the book until I have read it, and I have also read quite a bit of blog comment subsequently.

Up until now I have been pretty positive about Rob Bell and commend him in a forthcoming book on preaching (“Excellence in Preaching”, IVP 2011).  He is a great communicator.  But, like many others, I was taken aback by the advance publicity in mid March (see HarperCollins http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Love-Wins-Rob-Bell/?isbn=9780062049636).  Now, with the book on the market, it is sure to be a bestseller: not least because there must be many others who, like me, have bought it to see what he really says.

Some generally positive comments:

He asks good questions.  This is one feature of the Nooma DVDs.  Asking difficult questions elicits empathy from the hearer and also shows due self-awareness that teachers don’t necessarily have all the answers.

He is a good verbal communicator.  His style is engaging, relaxed and humorous; thousands flock to Mars Hill Church every week to hear him preach.

He is keen to win those who may have been disenfranchised by the Church. He is convinced that many have heard a wrong view of the Christian faith, namely, that in this short life-span on earth a decision made for or against Jesus Christ determines whether they spend eternity in hell or eternity in heaven. 

[God’s} love compels us to question some of the dominant stories that are being told as the Jesus story.  A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better.  It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus.  This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear (p.viii).

 He demonstrates the power of story to change lives.  The Gospel is God’s story, which has the ability to transform your story and reconnect you with the author.  And the story of the Bible is bigger than rescuing people from hell (see p.134).

 He is keen to emphasise the positive message about the love of God.

Love does indeed win, (see Rev 21:5-7).  I am with him when he says we need fresh and engaging ways to communicate this message:

I want to rescue preaching. I believe it’s an art form and I want to rescue it back from the scientists and the analysts. I want to see the poets and the prophets and the artists grab the microphone and say great things about God and the revolution. I think a whole art form has been lost that needs to be recaptured, a grand ambition for the art of preaching.  (The Subversive Art Leadership Journal January 2004).

 Some genuine concerns:

 He does not always give clear answers where clear answers are available.  He claims: this isn’t a book of questions.  It’s a book of responses to these questions.  But is it?  Chapter after chapter is full of questions.  If Bell is not clear in his mind on these matters should he not keep his questions to himself?  And, as Job learned, not all questions are good ones to ask; indeed God asks the most searching questions of us (Gen 3:9; Job 38).

He is a better speaker than writer. I do not think that Bell is a great writer.  It is partly because the written word does not enable the same kind of engagement that the spoken word does: inflection, nuance, eye contact, non-verbal and para-verbal issues; all these come across well in his speaking.  But there is more:

He is in danger of knocking down straw men/ being disingenuous

One of the better chapters is “The Good News is better than that” (Chapter 7).  Here he emphasises the fact that both sons in Luke 15 had misunderstood God; they had a skewed idea of the Father’s love and goodness.  Is he charging Evangelicals of being too Older Brother/Pharisaic?  Is he saying that the Church generally does not preach enough the message that “Love wins”?  

His questions have prompted a few questions of my own: what is the target at which Love Wins is aimed?

Is this a debate about legalism?

So when we hear that a certain person has “rejected Christ,” we should first ask, “Which Christ?” (p.9). In Chapter 9 he cites websites which are, quite frankly harsh, off putting and hardly the most winsome in welcoming non-Christians into Church!  His worry is that the “Turn or Burn” placard is toxic and inherently dangerous to the Church.

His corrective is to emphasise that God “gets what he wants” and “love will win.”

Of course there are religious fundamentalists who give the Christ of Christianity a very bad name (note Louis Theroux’s recent TV exposé of some of the worst extremes).  Richard Mouw argues that this book is about the gap between “generous orthodoxy” and “stingy orthodoxy.”  But Bell’s problem is not with a fanatical fringe, but rather he seems to be suggesting that mainline churches have been mistaken over the biblical teaching of hell and have got the message wrong.

Is the issue over Universalism or Annihilationism?

There is a legitimate evangelical debate over whether the Bible envisages unending torment for the wicked in hell. 

John Stott argues that the biblical language of “destruction” and “fire” (as consuming) implies that hell will not be unending.  The nature of God’s justice questions whether “eternal conscious torment” is compatible with biblical revelation of divine justice (Evangelical Essentials, p.319).  Universalism is an unbiblical concept, he states, not least because of the repeated warnings of the Bible about judgment.  Nevertheless Stott pleads that ‘the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment’ (p.320).

Evangelical contemporary, Jim Packer, responds saying that the Scriptural language of “destruction, death and punishment” point to the ruin of unbelievers, not necessarily their non existence.  Human beings have an eternity: either to intimate relationship with God or eternal distance from God.  References to “eternal punishment” following judgment (see Matt 25:46) need to be taken seriously. (See: The Problem of Eternal Punishment, Fellowship of Word and Spirit, Orthos 10).

Some of Bell’s concerns relate to this issue of “the eternity of hell.”  But he goes much further.  He asks: what does it means when Jesus says he will draw all people to himself (John 12:32)?

At the heart of this perspective is the belief that, given enough time, everybody will turn to God and find themselves in the joy and peace of God’s presence.  The love of God will melt every hard heart, and even the most “depraved sinners” will eventually give up their resistance and turn to God (p.107).

 God’s goal in all things is restoration and reconciliation: Which is stronger and more powerful, the hardness of the human heart or God’s unrelenting, infinite, expansive love? But a few pages later he asks: So will those who have said no to God’s love in this life continue to say no in the next? Love demands freedom, and freedom provides that possibility.  People take that option now, and we can assume it will be taken in the future (p.114).

There is a conundrum here: Bell argues that love can not be coerced and we get the hell (or heaven) we choose.   But, he argues: in the end, “love wins.”

Is the issue over penal substitution?

Considerable controversy was raised in the evangelical world over Steve Chalke’s book The Lost Message of Jesus.  In this book Chalke likens penal substitution to “cosmic child abuse.”   Some of what Bell writes sounds similarly concerned:

However true or untrue [that Jesus paid the price for sin] is technically or theologically, what it can do is subtly teach people that Jesus rescues us from God (p.182).

 So, what happened at the cross?  Is the cross about the end of the sacrificial system or a broken relationship that’s been reconciled or a guilty defendant who’s been set free or a battle that’s been won or the redeeming of something that was lost?  Which is it? (p.127).

The traditional evangelical answer has been: God is holy; there is sin; there will be a judgement; and that is why we need a cross to rescue us.  As with the Steve Chalke debate, we do well to remember that the cross is more than penal substitution (which Bell helpfully points out in chapter 5), but, we say too little if we don’t put at the heart of the Gospel Christ’s “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” (as the Book of Common Prayer so eloquently puts it).

 

Is the issue over the nature of the new heaven and the new earth?

Is heaven and hell to do with the eternal life hereafter?  Bell’s corrective is spot on: it starts with “life eternal.”  This is reflected in the prayer Jesus taught: “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”

Bell’s thoughts about the new heaven and the new earth clearly have been influenced by Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope which he cites for further reading.

He is right to say:

Heaven, for Jesus, was deeply connected with what he called “this age” and “the age to come.” (p.30).

Equally, discussions about “eternal life” have as much to do with life “now” as life “then” (e.g. p.41).  Heaven is dwelling with God; and when we dwell with God the future is dragged into the present (p.45).

 Do I believe in a literal hell?  Of course. (p.71) – so that settles it?  Well no, because for the most part, Hell is what is experienced now on earth when people reject God: if we want to say “no” to God, we can, and that is hell.

He notes the way in which Jesus speaks about Hell to religious leaders of his day as a place of purifying.  Then he concludes: the punishment of hell is for chastening, rebuking and purifying.  God is in the business of restoration: Failure, we see again, isn’t final; judgment has a point, and consequences are for correction (p.88).

It certainly seems that Bell doubts the eternity of hell:  Hell is distance from God and hell is lived on earth.  But, I was also left asking: does he believe in an eternal heaven?  I think he does but the book is not clear on this point: for him, heaven should be read as synonymous with “God.”  As he rightly corrects errors in popular views about heaven, I wonder whether he has lost any sense of the hereafter.

Conclusion

Unhelpful advanced publicity

The short video promotional focused on a response he records in chapter one of the book: “Gandhi’s in hell.  Really? … Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish?”  Surely this served no other purpose than to stir up an unholy ferment ahead of publication.

 Unhelpful reactions

Following the initial publicity some initial comments, including from high profile speakers, were quite sharp.  I do not think that it helps to respond in this hasty way before the book was published and available for careful review.

Better was the debate between John Stott and David Edwards in Essentials which is a great model of how to disagree agreeably! See also chapter 6 of their book for extended discussion on Judgement and Hell.

Ultimately an unhelpful book

Bell begins with a key question:

Have billions of people been created only to spend eternity in conscious punishment and torment, suffering infinitely for the finite sins they committed in the few years they spent on earth?

 I think the Bible seems to say: quite probably; Bell thinks no.  Surely the point is God never made me the Judge!

 Of course we do not know the answer to every question.  But some things are very clear: God will judge the wicked and the only way to be saved is through faith in the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross.  James 3 instruction to teachers sounds a sharp warning, Bell!

 * Further blogs/resources

Ben Witherington: chapter by chapter analysis of the book http://www.patheos.com/community/bibleandculture/2011/04/03/for-whom-the-bell-tolls%e2%80%a6%e2%80%a6-chapter-eight-coda/

Richard Mouw: a more positive review http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-orthodoxy-of-rob-bell-49500/

Christianity Today http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/april/lovewins.html and http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2011/02/rob_bells_book.html

A measure and helpful response: EA and Derek Tidball http://www.eauk.org/articles/love-wins-response.cfm

Best title: Michael Horton “Bell’s Hell” http://wscal.edu/blog/entry/bells-hell-a-review-by-michael-horton-part-1

Tim Challies http://www.challies.com/articles/at-the-speed-of-the-web?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+challies/XhEt+(Challies+Dot+Com)

Michael Yousseff http://michaelyoussef.squarespace.com/michaels-blogs/love-has-already-won.html with retort from Virtue online http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14160

For fun: Don Miller http://emergingbracken.blogspot.com/2011/04/don-miller-on-rob-bells-new-book-love.html

Some important resources from recent Gospel Coalition conference in Chicago http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/

Summary of the very helpful Q&A session between Tim Keller and Don Carson at the Desiringgod website http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/god-abounding-in-love-punishing-the-guilty

Simon Vibert is Vice Principal at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.  An abbreviated version of this article is published in the Church of England Newspaper (15th April 2011).  See also www.simonvibert.com.

 

uniting the rocket scientist the whale and hollywood

I have just got back from a week in Los Angeles.  I was there with fellow Wycliffe Tutors Richard Turnbull and Peter Walker.

First we led a day’s Preaching Conference at St James’ Newport Beach for local clergy, then an overnight teaching event for the congregation at St James’.  I preached the three morning services on “the ordinary and extraordinary nature of Paul’s conversion”  (1 Timothy 1:12-17).  Listen here http://stjamesnb.org/content/sermon-rev-dr-simon-vibert

I spent a very fruitful and encouraging time with Professors at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles discussing mutual interest alongside the possibility of Wycliffe being a home for American postgraduates studying in the University (http://www.biola.edu/).  

Next, a short visit to the marvellous “Ecclesia” Church which meets in a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard – what a great location to reach out with the Gospel (see http://www.churchinhollywood.com/).

Church politics is complex!  St James’ has left the Episcopal Church and is now  part of the Diocese of Western Anglicans, in the Province of the Anglican Church in North America under the oversight of Archbishop Robert Duncan.  They are in protracted legal dispute over rights to the property.  Horrible.  But it is so heartening to meet prayerful, godly, sacrificial people in this congregation who are keen to look outwards with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I hope we encouraged them in this great mission.

I left the West Coast with a sense of thankfulness that the Gospel of Jesus Christ unites believers across cultures and down the ages.  Links with Wycliffe are further encouraged by several members who have been to our Summer Schools and the possiblity of Seminarians coming here for short study stints (www.wycliffe.ox.ac.uk)

And, oh yes, I had a great sail with courtesy of a retired rocket scientist and, along with dolphins, sea lions and pelicans, got a brief glimpse of a Whale!

LEJOG completed

With much gratitude for all the friendship, food, enthusiastic support, great hospitality and, of course, your sponsorship, Simon Vibert and Chris Leftley completed the nearly 1000 mile trip from Lands End to John O’Groats on Sunday 18th July 2010.

We saw some stunning parts of the British Isles, help by the vista from a saddle, lovely cycle tracks and rural routing.  We were humbled by the expressions of good wishes and kindness along the way.

God’s creation is truly marvellous.  I found myself musing: “Who does Richard Dawkins praise when he sees the beauty of the natural world?”  As for me, Psalm 103 was very much in my mind as the Psalmist exalts the Lord for his many wonders.  Although slogging up the A9 near Perth in torrential rain was a more humbling experience!

Our final stop-off at the home of Christian Focus was a treat, a lovely rural setting near Tain.  To see first hand the entrepreneurial vision for Reformed Christian Publishing was very refreshing.

Of course, we were acutely aware that we weren’t the first to make such a daring trip, particularly as we crossed into Scotland and were caught in a traffic jam of cyclists all trying to take a photo of Gretna!

Nevertheless, this was a matter of dogged discipline (20 miles to coffee; 20 miles to lunch; 20 miles to tea and then overnight stop!).  We were thankful for good health, largely good weather, and very minor bike problems.

We cycled to raise funds to supplement student teaching resources at Wycliffe Hall.  Out of the target of £10,000 a little over half of that has been raised so far.  Donations are still trickling in.

But, finally, as I return to my desk for less physically rigorous activity, it is good to remember Paul’s wise words: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).

LEJOG Jogger

After more than 6 months of planning Simon Vibert (Vice Principal) and Chris Leftley (Librarian) of Wycliffe Hall Oxford set off on Monday 5th July to cycle the 950 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats in 2 weeks.

Wycliffe Hall subsidises every student training for the ministry by up to £2000 per annum.  The shortfall needs to be met by donations and fundraising.  The particular goal of this endeavour is to try to raise £10,000 towards the cost of updating teaching resources (interactive whiteboards and video projectors).

Details of the ride may be found at  http://lejogjuly2010.weebly.com/

Daily updates may be found at our facebook group http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/group.php?gid=104914276223578&ref=ts

Finally, should you wish to donate to this worthy cause please check out the fundraising page at  http://www.justgiving.com/Simon-Vibert

Latest update on things happening at Wycliffe Hall

Wycliffe in 2010

May 2010

 Wycliffe Hall is an evangelical theological college with 100 full time students, located in the fine city of Oxford.  Wycliffe is a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford.  Over half of the student body are Ordinands in the Church of England, the rest of our students come from various denominations, and from around the world, pursuing qualifications up to Doctoral level.

 Churchmanship

 The 1877 Trust deed of Wycliffe Hall, signed by all members of the Hall Council, emphasises a Protestant interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles, atonement, justification, the sacraments, priesthood and the Bible.  This is the rich heritage in which Wycliffe Hall stands.

 Throughout its existence Wycliffe has identified itself as an Anglican Evangelical Theological College.  In practice this means that we have represented in our community those who would describe themselves as conservative, those who would call themselves charismatic and those who would have a more reflective or contemplative spirituality.   We believe that this gives us a genuine depth and richness which enhances our community and equips those preparing for ministry within the Church.

 Our Chapel services include daily worship using the range of services in Common Worship (and Book of Common Prayer), Scripture readings, a combination of organ, keyboard, and guitar for sung worship.  Students lead and preach, taking responsibility, along with their tutors; our weekly Holy Communion service often includes a guest preacher.  Other services include a weekly student led Complin service and occasional prayer meetings and a Taize style service.

 Training

 The three principal parts of ordinand life at Wycliffe are Academic learning, Ministry Training and Spiritual formation.  All students study towards an Oxford University qualification (Diploma in Theological and Pastoral Training, C.Th. B.Th., B.A., M.Th. D. Phil).  Wycliffe’s academic results have consistently been high, with the Hall in the top two positions in the Norrington table for at least the last 5 years.  Amongst the Tutorial staff we have (8 Doctorates) and (91 years of parochial experience)!  Our recent staff appointments have deliberately sought to hold together academic excellence and recent parochial experience.

 Ministry training is undertaken by practitioners and we place particular emphasis on the ministry gifts of Leadership, Preaching, Church Growth and Christian Apologetics.  Students will spend some of their time at Wycliffe in Pastoral placements which take place in churches of very different sizes and demography to enable them to experience worship in contexts which are different to their sending Church and range from rural parishes across Oxfordshire to larger City Churches with a more student emphasis.  Many students elect to use their placements to experience a Churchmanship with which they are not familiar.

 Spiritual formation lies at the heart of everything we do.  Some formation happens within the formal curriculum, including writing a Pastoral Reflection on a long summer placement, or writing an essay on Worship, or on a style of Pastoral Counselling.  All students meet with their personal tutor formally at least once per term, and informally on a regular basis along with the other 11 members of their fellowship group.  They will undertake the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and spend an intense week considering the spiritual aspects of Church leadership.  The communal experience of rubbing shoulders with men and women from different backgrounds over meals, worship, sport and informal conversation is often very significant for personal devotion and spiritual development.  When put alongside the active mentoring of students by Tutors throughout their time here, the two or three years at Wycliffe Hall can be the most spiritually formative period of an ordinand’s life. 

 Men & Women in Ministry

 Wycliffe holds together the “Two Integrities” which are currently evident in contemporary Anglican Church life.  Two of our full time academic staff are ordained women who along with a substantial number of students and fellow tutors hold to a more egalitarian approach.  Others, both on the staff and in the student body, hold to a more complementarian approach to men and women in ministry.  What is important for us is that Wycliffe is a place where differences of viewpoint may be acknowledged, discussed and allowed an equal place alongside each other.

 Focus Days and Integration Study Weeks spend considerable time discussing the ministry and personal implications of academic training.  For example, an annual Focus Day on Men and Women in Leadership involves a debate between two tutors who have divergent views in this area and allows students to hear a passionate and clear presentation of both positions.  Additionally, the Focus Day on Human Sexuality recognises the pertinence of a related current issue in the Anglican Communion, wrestles with the biblical text and concludes by seeking to encourage students to be aware of the conclusions of “Some Issues in Human Sexuality” (and other Church House publications) whilst exercising positive love, overcoming prejudice and showing compassion to the struggles of many in this area of human sexuality.

 Community

Wycliffe is a thriving community which continues to train some of the finest men and women for 21st Century Church of England Ministry.  We consider that our best ambassadors are the students themselves.  We hope that Bishops and DDO’s will take up our invitation to visit the Hall and experience student life here.  Students will happily share of the positive and negative experiences of Residential training in the Hall and give a balanced impression of what it is like to be a student at Wycliffe.

 Revd Dr Simon Vibert

Vice Principal Wycliffe Hall